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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Even on a Friday night, Bar Toma offered the perfect dining experience for a family.
Even on a Friday night, Bar Toma offered the perfect dining experience for a family.
There is bar seating along the open kitchen, boosting the entertainment value.
There is bar seating along the open kitchen, boosting the entertainment value.

Mantuano's Bar Toma satisfies the entire family

CHICAGO – Kenosha's Tony Mantuano is a star in Chicago (thanks to Spiaggia) and beyond (thanks to his television appearances). But he's not too busy to keep one eye on Twitter.

When we arrived in Chicago Friday evening, I tweeted that I hoped to get a table at his Bar Toma, 110 E. Pearson St. – named for a type of cheese with deep, deep roots in Piemontese culture – and that I sure hoped the place lived up to its name and served toma.

Lickety-split, Mantuano retweeted me and assured me that toma is on the menu at Toma. By then, we were being seated – no wait, though the place was busy – at a table near the front of the restaurant, which opened late last year in the shadow of the Water Tower.

We had a great wood-fired pizza margarita ($11) with bubbling cheese and whole, giant basil leaves, and a toma tasting platter ($12) with three varieties: fresh, aged and a version made by Caputo in Illinois that was milky and soft, almost like a fresh ricotta (though not as liquid). The platter also had slices of creminelli salami, house-made preserves and sesame crisps.

My daughter and I shared crispy calamari ($9) and we shared a Cristina salad ($9) – orange supremes, olives, frisee, spinach, avocado, smoked garlic, shrimp, hearts of palm and lemon – around the table, too.

Though the food was all really good and the prices very reasonable, the best part was that Bar Toma really felt like an Italian restaurant in that despite the fact that it was a busy Friday night, most of the employees coo-ed at the kids, offered them samples of gelato and wowed them by tossing pizza dough in the air.

That makes this parent's night out that much more enjoyable.

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